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        Has Pukki got Premier League X-factor?

        FEATURE | Can Championship slayer tame top flight?

        2019/06/21 17:03
        By Stephen Gillett

        There are plenty of plotlines to ponder ahead of the 2019/20 season and a fascinating one hangs on how Norwich City hotshot Teemu Pukki will handle the Premier League.

        Finland international Pukki, 29, helped fire the Canaries to the Championship title last season, but has - despite short spells in La Liga and the Bundesliga - never shone at elite level.  

        In the week that the Finn signed a three-year contract extension, Playmaker runs the rule over a player with undoubted firepower, but question marks over how he will handle the big time. 

        Free-scoring free transfer! 

        What a difference a season has made to the stock of the Finnish finisher - who started last season as something of an unknown quantity, but ended it as the most productive player across all four divisions of English football.

        Joining on a free after four successful seasons with Danish side Brondby, Pukki enjoyed a superlative season and his amazing stats at club level (where he contributed 29 goals and 9 assists in the Championship) were mirrored on the international stage, where he has registered 8 goals in his last 11 games for Finland

        An all-rounder with a knack for finding space in the area, Pukki led the line superbly for Daniel Farke's Canaries and showed a cutting edge that was not always apparent at clubs such as Seville, Schalke and Celtic earlier in his career. 

        Zlatan gives his blessing

        However, in terms of how Pukki will fare in the Premier League next season, the jury is out. Well, most if it, apart from Zlatan Ibrahimovic - who recently backed Pukki to adapt well to life in the English top flight

        Although Zlatan's sermon can perhaps be taken with a pinch of salt (how often has he actually watched the Finn in action?), Pukki's previous struggles in the Spanish, German and Scottish top flights can largely be discounted as evidence of an inability to play at a higher level. 

        Pukki himself has said he is a 'totally different player' from the one who averaged less than a goal every four games at Schalke and Celtic, and his form last season was simply too good to suggest it was a flash in the pan. He and Farke have both spoken about his hard work and professionalism, and Pukki has admitted that these ingredients were occasionally lacking from his game early in his career.

        However, as great as it is to get backing from Zlatan, there are reasons to think Pukki could struggle next season.

        Has Pukki got Premier League X-factor?

        Perhaps, the most obvious reason is that Norwich are not going to outgun their Premier League opposition, as they did in the Championship. Manchester City were the only top 4 tier team to score more league goals than the Canaries last season, and tellingly no player had more shots in the second tier in 2018/19 than Pukki (144). This season will mark a sea change in this regard.

        The questions being posed about Pukki's ability to step up to the plate, are also going to be asked about the likes of Emiliano Buendia, Onel Hernandez and Mario Vrancic: Norwich's playmakers and Pukki's supply line last term. The Canaries' entire attacking unit is likely to find the Premier League a much tougher nut to crack and Pukki's sightings of - let alone shots at - goal will plummet.

        Pukki's intelligence, movement and tactical flexibility are all real strengths - but it can be argued that his game lacks the X-factor necessary to thrive in the Premier League. The genuine pace (see Callum Wilson, Jamie Vardy) or sheer power (see Troy Deeney) that have served recent Championship graduates well are not evident in Pukki's game and he could find that he simply does not possess the physical attributes to occupy defences and pose problems at the higher level. 

        Parallels with Jimenez?

        It would be plain wrong, however, to write off Pukki before a ball has been kicked. His form on the international stage (which saw him outgun Edin Dzeko in a 2-0 win against Bosnia this month) shows he has genuine quality and the guile to be a big game matchwinner. 

        Further, there are parallels with Wolves and their centre-forward Raul Jimenez that bode well for Pukki and Norwich ahead of the big kick off.  

        Championship winners in 2017/18, Wolves took to Premier League life like a duck to water last season and the success of their Mexican frontman Jimenez suggests that clinical strikers in Pukki's mould can flourish in the English top flight. 

        Although Jimenez was bought in the wake of Wolves' Championship success, there were still initial concerns as to whether he would cut the mustard at Premier League level. Mobile, strong, sharp in front of goal, Jimenez had all the attributes of a top centre forward on paper...but had, until last season, failed to consistently deliver during spells in La Liga and Portugal's Primeira Liga. As in Pukki's case, the jury was out - hence Jimenez's initial loan deal from Benfica.

        After something of a slow start, however, Jimenez was a revelation for Wolves scoring 13 goals and supplying 7 assists; the striker involved in a staggering 43% of the Midlanders' Premier League goals, as they finished 7th to secure Europa League football and also reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup.

        Never prolific at Atletico Madrid and Benfica, Jimenez allied goal threat with the ability to act as Wolves' attacking focal point and his subsequent £30 million move to Molineux this summer was no surprise.

        If Jimenez, 28, can unmask his potential in the Premier League, there is no reason Pukki cannot do the same.

        The fan's view

        Whether fellow all-rounder Pukki can emulate Jimenez's success remains to be seen, but it will certainly be interesting to see how he and his club fare next season. 

        Our verdict is that Pukki, like the Canaries, will blow hot and cold in their first season in the Premier League since 2015/16. However, let's leave the last word to Norwich City fan, James Legge (who runs the @_PrideOfAnglia Twitter account), who believes the Finn will make his mark in the Premier League. 

        "If he gets the service I’m sure Pukki will score goals. He is guaranteed game time and the striker's spot after a successful campaign in the Championship, so opportunity shouldn’t be problem. He can do nothing in terms of shooting all game, then one chance and he’s there," he said.

        "He has that lethal goal scoring gene - and even if he does not score that many goals his defending from the front will be the driving force for the team."

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        Teemu Pukki
        NameTeemu Eino Antero Pukki
        Born1990-03-29(29 -yrs-old)
        PositionForward (Striker) / Forward (Right Wing)


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